History Quarter Project 1 Essay

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Words: 2289
Pages: 10

American History Michael Owens
First Quarter Project
Mrs. Hawkins

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine argues for American Independence. His argument begins with more general, theoretical reflections about government and religion, then progresses onto the specifics of the colonial situation. Paine begins the pamphlet Common Sense with “Of The Origin And Design Of Government In General” which is filled with general comments about the government. With Concise Remarks On The English Constitution
. He observes first that people have a tendency to confuse government with society. Drawing a sharp line, Paine argues that society is always something to strive for, whereas government is "a necessary evil." (Page 1*). Society fosters the fulfillment of our desires, while government is there only to keep man from indulging his vices. Paine says that if a country with a government is hampered by oppression, it is far worse than if such behavior were to occur on its own, since the people create and support the government, and are therefore financing their own poor condition. If all people acted morally, government would not be necessary, but since people are fallible, government is necessary to the protection of life and property. Government's fundamental purpose, therefore, is to provide security, and the success of a government is to be judged by the extent to which it fulfills this role. To better understand Government, Paine considers a small group of people, isolated on an island, cut off from all humanity. Unable to survive individually, the isolated people would eventually interact with each other. Together they would gather food, build shelters, and by doing this, they have established a society. As long as they were to treat each other honorably, there would be no need for any laws. However, in order to account for inevitable defects in moral virtue, they would need to form a government. This, at first, could simply be a discussion of public matters in an organized place. but as the size of the society increases, they would need to choose representatives to make the law. In order to make this work, they would need to hold frequent elections so that the newest “political” ideas were up to date. Paine breaks out of the world of his imagination to argue that, therefore, representation, and not monarchy, is essential to "The strength of government and the happiness of the governed." (Page 2). Paine claims that his view of government is based on the principle "that the more simple any thing is, the less likely it is to be disordered." (Page 2). He then sets out to attack the British constitution. He describes it as exceedingly complex and rife with monarchical and aristocratic tyranny. Paine argues that, furthermore, it is absurd to think that the British system consists of branches of government checking each other. In the following section entitled “Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession”, Paine asserts that mankind was originally in a state of equality, and, therefore, present inequalities must have been brought about by some circumstance. Paine says that a common distinction that lacks any natural or religious basis, is the division between kings and their subjects. This distinction, unlike those between male and female or good and evil, is not one"of heaven, and Paine wishes to inquire into its origin and its consequences. Originally, Paine says, there were no kings in the world. Then, the ancient Jews copied the custom from the heathens who surrounded them. This was a grave mistake, and Paine maintains that in establishing a king for themselves, the Jews sinned. Man is supposed to have only God ruling over him, and to introduce a king, who in ruling over the people is like a God, is a grave misdeed. Eventually, Paine says, the Jewish people asked the prophet Samuel for a king. Samuel attempted dissuade the people, but they insisted that they wanted to have a King like the other nations, and God assented,